Ari Aster’s Midsommar was one of the most anticipated films of 2019, and this past weekend it had the privilege of releasing a director’s cut across the nation for one weekend only.
The puzzling yet symbolic film takes place in the village of a Swedish pagan cult, where American students come to participate in the cult’s midsommar festival. At its center is the crumbling relationship of American couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), a young long-term couple who find themselves drifting apart as the film progresses. Slowly, the rituals become more hedonistic and Dani and Christian find their relationship blowing up amidst it all.
While critics enjoyed the almost three-hour slow burn of the film, many regular moviegoers were left confused. After watching the theatrical cut twice, I fell in love with the film’s symbolism and themes of fate, family, trauma and grief. I hoped that the 30 minutes of extra footage would deepen the film’s themes, or perhaps confirm some of my theories. It did neither.
At its core, Midsommar is a breakup film. The director’s cut confirmed that fact even more, with its most substantial scene being another ritual and a confrontation between Dani and Christian. In the extra scene, which comes shortly after the iconic and horrific cliff scene, Dani and Christian are invited to a night ritual of another sacrifice. This is an unusual and standout sequence, as most of the film takes place in bright sun-kissed rural Sweden, where the sun only sets for an hour. This, visually, is the darkest scene set in Sweden– but it is also the darkest point of Dani and Christian’s relationship. We have Dani, who is still very much in love with Christian, and we have Christian, who does not love her but cannot bring himself to break up with her. After witnessing a child about to be sacrificed, the relationship explodes, and, somehow, Christian is revealed to be an even more awful boyfriend than previously shown. However, his flaws are still displayed in a tasteful and humane manner. Christian’s guilty conscience is put on full display, and his fading love for Dani is obvious (forgetting her birthday, not telling her about his planned trip to Sweden, etc). I appreciated how much further their relationship was fleshed out. Yet, I can easily see why it was not necessary in the normal theatrical release.
What I was hoping for, and did not get in the director’s cut, was a more sophisticated development of the overarching themes. The deaths of Dani’s family in the film’s prologue were one of the most deeply disturbing elements in the film. Tragically, the event was not further developed. I was doubly disappointed that Dani’s trauma is not further reconciled. While present throughout the film, the new cut simply offers more scenes of her in private, breaking down and crying. Dani’s trauma could have run far deeper than her boyfriend’s reluctant attempts to comfort her. Even moreso, I was hoping for a scene that confirms the predetermined fate of the characters. In both the director’s cut and the theatrical cut, the film shows a mural of Dani’s fate. I was hoping for a confirmation that the cult was responsible for the tragedy that bought Dani to Sweden. This would’ve made for a tragic and horrifying conclusion, similar to Aster’s previous 2018 work, Hereditary.
While the director’s cut offered some more insight into Dani and Christian’s relationship, it really did not feel necessary. Meanwhile, there were other themes that could’ve been more fleshed out in the almost 30 minutes of extra footage. The director’s cut is worth a watch if you are a fan of the film, but do not go into it with high expectations.